Last year Bluesfest presented the legendary Bob Dylan; this year it’s Donovan. Once again Bluesfest offers punters the unique opportunity to see musicians who have not only changed the face of music, but have spearheaded an entire subculture. It’s hard to know what to ask a musician who’s been playing for almost 50 years.
As a young musician, do you feel you were prepared for international success? I felt the call, and heeded it. Called to be poet and musician and a voice for freedom of thought.
I did not expect the instant accolades and super fame. Who can? Now it is understood that my ‘calling’ was needed by so many; that it is now clear that my vocation was headed for great fame through service as a poet who helped bring the bohemian manifesto back to popular culture.
Is it hard to develop musically, make the mistakes you need to etc when you are so much in the public eye? I was prepared fully before I arrived at fame. I lived the vagabond life with Gypsy Dave and brought with me from a previous life all that I would need in this one.
How do you think this helped shape you as a musician? Fame did not change my developing work or my dedication. I did have to learn the ‘studio techniques’ but that was fast and natural.
As a singer-songwriter around the same time as Dylan you were often compared to him. How important was it to distance yourself from this and just get on with making your own music? It was an easy mistake to visually compare me with Bobbie as we wore Woodie Guthrie caps and had harmonica harnesses and mimicked Woodie Guthrie for a time. We two also were the new poet songwriters of both sides of the western world, who were obsessed with fusing folk with blues jazz and rock forms.
It took only my second single to show we were not alike at all.
Did it ever get you down? Frustrated when the media had no knowledge of the music genre Bobbie and I came from.
What have been the greatest challenges that you have faced as a musician? Dealing with the police dogs that harassed audiences in the early days when our music threatened the establishment.
What are the things in life that are most important to you? Freedom of movement, thought, and Linda .
As an artist that started out in 65 and is still playing in 2012 (don’t mean that to sound patronisingly ageist), how has the way you approach the industry and your music evolved? It’s the same really: it’s called ‘bums on seats’. All the recording styles, music, costumes, videos and now webworlds are all just ways to access what is always the same: the song, then the singer, then the concert.
These are always with us from ancient times and will be in the far future if this planet survives the ignorance and the greed.
For you, what is the essence of good songwriting? Three chords and maybe, if its necessary, a minor chord.
You were the poster boy for a psychedelic hippy generation. How did your kids react to that later in life… meaning was it hard to parent once you’d been the face of an acid-dropping generation? I was a Gypsy parent. We tried alternative schools mostly. Linda taught basic health and I taught attitude.
You’ll have to ask the kids what they felt.
What are your passions now? Poetry, mythology and Linda.
What should we expect from you at Bluesfest? A surprise or two yet all the popular songs I am known for; a short concert really as it’s a fest. But I will be back for a tour maybe next Yule.
Easter long weekend in Byron Bay. For more program details and ticketing info go to www.bluesfest.com.au.